In the academic year of 1998 / 1999, I had the chance to go to Syria as a participant in a scholarship organised by the Polish Ministry of Education. My timetable at the Arabic Institute for Foreigners in Damascus frequently allowed me to go on trips to find out more about the inhabitants of Syria.
During one of those trips into the mountainous regions, at the foot ofJabalal-Shaikh, I came across a community with unique and distinctive outfits. I saw the same minority later near Suwayda and Idlib as well as in Damascus itself. My trips included a visit to a village called Hudur in the Golan Heights.
Duruz, Muwahhidun and Banu Maaruf are all names referring to a community of almost 200 thousand, inhabiting the remote mountainous regions of Syria. Their main activity is agriculture. They keep their religious doctrine in secret. Some claim it is Islam, others say it is a separate religion based on Ismailism with the central figure of Hakim, a god who appeared among people.
The Druze demonstrate their individuality by their characteristic outfits. They also differ in terms of physiognomy. Fair skin and delicate facial features inspire scientists to look for the ethnic roots of the people outside the Arabic core.
The life of the Druze community members is regulated by an internal civil law which is different from Islamic law in the areas of marriage, inheritance or the responsibilities of family members towards each other. The separate law of the Druze does not interfere with their existence in Syria, PalestineandIsrael. They manage to assimilate successfully in every country, taking an active part in its political life. The controversial careers of the Druze soldiers in the Israeli army or the significant participation of the Druze notables in leading the Great Arab Revolution in Syria are good examples.
The aim of my work is to present the Druze by revealing information which I find particularly interesting, such as their origins, their civil law and the characteristic figure of the fourth Fatimid Caliph. I have never been particularly interested in religious studies, therefore it was my conscious decision not to elaborate on the Druze doctrine. In addition, this topic is far too important and vast to be contained within a single chapter.
There is a section which presents field research and, although rather limited, it can be used to show a cross section of the Druzecommunityin Syria.
I would like totake this opportunityto thank all the people who contributed to the creation of my work, such as my Syrian friends, the Druze and those who facilitated my contact with them. I thoroughly appreciate the time devoted to me by the Sheikhal-Akl ofSuwayda and the Head ofthe Cultural Centre of this town as well as Mr Ziyar al-Yasin (I hope the spelling is indeed correct as the note with the name written on it has unfortunately been lost), without whom I would never have had a chance to meet either of the persons I mentioned before.
Basia, thank you very much for the photos!
Special thanks to my Palestinian friend, Amin, who along with his truly hospitable family welcomed me under his roof whenever I knocked on his door at Yarmuk.
And finally, I would like to thank the person who methodically encouraged students to do field research, from which it all began – my teacher and the supervisor of my Master’s thesis at the University of Adam Mickiewicz in Poznan, Professor Henryk Jankowski.
I hope that the readers of my work will kindly overlook the stylistic and factual shortcomings, which were not intended. Feel free to use the "Contact" tag on the website to send your comments and any suggested changes to the above work which you find necessary.
Here’s hoping you enjoy reading about the Druze!